Kathmandu Valley (Nepal) (C 121bis)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1979
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 417,619
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: USD 10 million (1979-2001) from the International Safeguarding Campaign; USD 45,000 (2005) and USD 20,000 (2011) from Netherlands Funds-in-Trust. Several UNESCO extra-budgetary projects have been approved in late 2015/early 2016 for the post-earthquake emergency safeguarding, conservation and rehabilitation process of the Kathmandu Valley
Previous monitoring missions
February 2003: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission; April 2007: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; March 2011: UNESCO international expert advisory mission; November 2011: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; October-November 2015: Joint World Heritage Centre /ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission; March 2017: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Earthquake (Severe earthquake of 25 April 2015)
- Housing (Uncontrolled urban development resulting in the loss of traditional urban fabric, in particular privately-owned houses)
- Management systems/management plan (Lack of a coordinated management mechanism)
- Ground transport infrastructure (Construction of a forest road)
- Underground transport infrastructure (Project for tunnel road in Pashupati Monument Zone)
- Air transport infrastructure (Project for the extension of the Kathmandu International Airport)
- Localized utilities (New development projects, in particular the crematorium in Pashupati Monument Zone and the reconstruction of Bhaidegah Temple)
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017
On 1 February 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/documents. A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property on 20-25 March 2017 (mission report available at the link above).
The State Party’s report highlights the following:
- Following the disaster, an Earthquake Response Coordination Office was established at the Department of Archaeology (DoA) to facilitate coordination between the Government of Nepal, the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu and the international community during the emergency salvaging, protection and planning efforts;
- Although all seven Protected Monument Zones suffered from the 2015 earthquake and the main monuments were affected, this concerned only some 17% of all monuments located within the World Heritage property, which the State Party does not consider especially significant;
- The State Party considers that these monuments can be rehabilitated through the Nepalese tradition of cyclical renewal;
- The DoA has already prepared and implemented post-earthquake guidelines for conservation, reconstruction and rehabilitation. The State Party considers that there will be no negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property at the end of the reconstruction and rehabilitation process;
- Research has been undertaken for every monument in order to diagnose any major damage; this will serve as a basis for decisions on conservation approaches (conservation, reconstruction, or rehabilitation);
- All post-earthquake conservation, reconstruction and rehabilitation activities have been carried out in accordance with the Recovery Master Plan, and both reconstruction and rehabilitation works are carried out with community participation;
- All national authorities concerned with heritage rehabilitation have been working in close coordination;
- The integrated Management Plan was reviewed just before the earthquake; it has since been reviewed again and is awaiting approval;
- Training and capacity-building programmes focusing on earthquake recovery and first aid have been organized by different national and international organizations, including ICCROM, in close cooperation with DoA.
In its report, the State Party also provides brief details of progress with work on individual monuments.
The report of the 2017 mission provides more detailed assessments of the damage to and state of conservation of all seven Monument Zones. It notably covers the work carried out, the resulting achievements and highlights what remains to be addressed, while assessing with the planning and management structures. The mission report specifically highlights the following concerns:
- On many monuments, work has barely begun: badly damaged structures are inadequately supported or protected and many neighbouring structures have been demolished;
- Work undertaken so far has not been based on a systematic assessment and mapping of the damage, nor has a centralized database been established to list which elements have been damaged and which have survived;
- Local ground conditions around the monuments have been adequately investigated;
- No recovery plans exist to guide the work being undertaken;
- What constitutes the attributes of OUV and what is meant by ‘the recovery of OUV’ appears not to be well understood;
- Much of the restoration work consists of uncontrolled reconstruction of poor quality, resulting in considerable loss of significant fabric, and the research on traditional building techniques, along with the studies of later alterations, are inadequate;
- The contractors who have been appointed are not all experienced in historic building conservation;
- Late 19th- and 20th-century buildings have been demolished without adequately assessing their contribution to the evolution of the monument zones;
- Traditional houses with their ground-floor shops have suffered from the earthquakes and the recovery process; large numbers have been demolished are being replaced with concrete-framed structures;
- Coordination between the DoA, the National Reconstruction Authority, site managers, local communities and various project partners (both local and international) appears to be poor;
- To enable the efficient and effective management of the post-disaster recovery, the DoA requires far greater capacity (e.g. architectural expertise and experience in heritage conservation) and resources (human, technological and financial).
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
It is recommended that the Committee acknowledge the strong commitment of the State Party, the considerable amount of work that it has undertaken for the recovery of the property, particularly by salvaging important elements, and its capacity-building efforts. However, the scale and scope of the disaster must be acknowledged, along with the fact that the response required goes well beyond the capacity and resources of the Department of Archaeology.
The recommendations formulated by the previous Reactive Monitoring mission of 2016 have not been fully implemented, notably concerning the preparation of a Recovery Master Plan for each of the seven monument zones or the review and update of the Integrated Management Plan, neither of which have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review the Advisory Bodies.
The detailed results of the 2017 mission clearly highlight that the property is facing serious deterioration of its architectural and town-planning coherence. This has arisen not only from the immediate impact of the earthquakes, but worryingly also from some of the work undertaken during the subsequent recovery process, which is adding to the erosion of the property’s integrity and authenticity.
The mission describes in clear detail the scale and scope of damage to all the monument zones three years after the earthquake, the lack of any support or protection for many damaged areas, the demolition of ancillary structures, and the degradation of housing areas and commercial properties. The slow pace of recovery and the damaging restoration work carried out on some of the monuments appears to reflect the current management weaknesses across the property, the lack of adequate planning or coordination, and the overall lack of capacity to undertake the necessary documentation, research and analyses that should underpin all of the work.
Notwithstanding the good measures adopted by the State Party, the recovery process is not currently at an adequate scale to deal with the major challenges that have arisen following the earthquake. Planning coordination needs to be further strengthened and there is a lack of evidence to support the work undertaken, which often does not respect the distinctive traditional materials and local practices. All of this is impacting adversely on the OUV of the property and has potential to inflict even greater damage in the future. Therefore, it is clear that the property is currently facing actual and potential threats to its OUV, in accordance with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines.
The potential and ascertained threats identified by the 2017 mission are so considerable that the recovery process needs to be quickened and made more effective. It is suggested that much greater input, collaboration and coordination of support from the international community could help to achieve this shift. There is also an urgent need for the development of a coherent and coordinated overall Recovery Plan, along with Recovery Plans for individual monument zones.
The property needs more support and more structures that allow a proportionate response to these threats. This response should be linked to social and economic development, so that the recovery of the property can be clearly linked to wider community benefits. To this end, it is recommended that the Committee inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in order to enable a greater mobilization of the international community and its extensive network of experts and resources, and as a means of assisting the State Party in the task of recovering the property and its OUV.
Finally, it should be noted that the mission discussed in detail with the State Party the technical, planning, legal and management measures that are needed to recover the attributes of the OUV. These could be considered as contributing to a Desired state of conservation for the property (DSOCR) to be proposed by the State Party in response to the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.95
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B.Add.2,
- Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.41, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
- Acknowledges the strong commitment of the State Party and work that it has undertaken for the recovery of the property, particularly by salvaging important elements, its capacity-building efforts and the six-year plan for the recovery of the monuments damaged by the earthquake;
- Takes note of the report of March 2017 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property;
- Also acknowledges the scale and scope of the disaster, as described by the 2017 mission and the continuing, serious deterioration of the property’s architectural and town-planning coherence resulting from the immediate impacts of the earthquakes;
- Recognizes that the pace of recovery and the damaging restoration work on some monuments appears to reflect the current need for improvement in management capacity across the property, to undertake the necessary documentation, research and analyses that should underpin all recovery work;
- Considers that the potential and ascertained threats to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property are so considerable that the recovery process needs to be quickened and made more effective, and that the scale and scope of the disaster and the response required goes well beyond the capacity and resources of the Department of Archaeology (DoA), and also considers that much greater input, collaboration and coordination of support from the international community could likely help to achieve this shift;
- Requests the State Party to fully commit to use appropriate methods and materials in recovery works;
- Reiterates its request that the State Party integrate the Recovery Master Plan (RMP) within an overall socio-economic revitalization programme for urban communities, encourage residents and local businesses to engage in the recovery process and ensure that it delivers wide-ranging social and economic benefits;
- Calls upon the international community to support the State Party’s urgent recovery work through financial, technical or expert assistance;
- Strongly encouraqes the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Advisory mission to ascertain the progress accomplished by the State Party in implementation of six-year RMP and to give guidance on reviewing it;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.